Sell Your Paintings on Day One

One of the most frequently asked questions I receive from students is, “Do you have any suggestions on how to sell our paintings? My paintings are much better than going to a flea market to try and sell.”

One of the most frequently asked questions I receive from students is, “Do you have any suggestions on how to sell our paintings? My paintings are much better than going to a flea market to try and sell.”

When I hear this question, a couple of thoughts really flood my mind. Actually, it’s more like a King Kong Stampede.

First, people who attend Flea Markets, yard sales, and block offerings are looking for what? Low, dirt low prices. So unless your work is of flea market quality, I suggest you don’t consider becoming the Flea Market Dog of Art.

You have to go to places that establish you as an artist.

First things first. Sit down and ask yourself some very tough, soul-searching questions. Why do you want to sell your art? And the reason I ask that question is that most people don’t know. The first reason to sell your art is that by golly, you want to make some money. All other reasons are secondary. If they’re not….. then the question should not be about how to sell your paintings.

So if you’re going to want to make money, the next logical question to ask is ….

’So who will give you money for your art?” This is called establishing a market niche. It just means a group of people, who have something in common, who would be interested in buying your art. All battles for selling paintings are won and lost on the first day you pick your market.

You when or lose depending on ‘Who” you choose. Successful marketing of your paintings is not so much about “What paintings” you market, “What style you use,” or “How” you market or go about selling them as it is about “Who. To whom do you choose to market? If you get the “Who” right, then everything else will fall into place.

If you don’t, not even the greatest marketing in the world will help you.

When you go about determining “Who” to choose, remember, that some markets are hard and some markets are easy. Simply said, some people are easier to reach than others, and some people are easier to sell than others.

I prefer easy. Given a choice between hard and easy, I’ll choose easily any day. Now just what do I mean by an ‘easy’ market? How can you easily identify an easy market? Good question. Easy markets typically have three characteristics, and once you find a market that has the following three characteristics, the easier your life will be in marketing and sales of your paintings.

1. The market is easy to reach.

2. The market has a burning “need” for the type of art you paint.

3. The market has demonstrated through past behavior their ability and willingness to spend money on the kinds of things you paint.

This is why flea markets are the ideal example of the wrong ‘Who’ for oil paintings.

1. Out of all of the attendees, how many really came to buy an oil painting? So finding out ‘Who’ among all flea market attendees that buy oil paintings is not easy. It’s hit-and-miss at best.

2. Flea market is synonymous with “Cheap prices”, “bargains”, impulse buying, and so forth. No ‘burning desire, no quantifiable number of people specifically within your market area,3. Flea markets have typically demonstrated that $100 paintings are not frequently sold.

4. So the 3-point test is not passed at all by the Flea Market.

Most people make the mistake of approaching the process of selling paintings by creating one that they’re sure the world will love. Or they simply hear that the Internet is a great place to make money. So they pour tons of money advertising on eBay, or they develop an award-winning, graphically inspired website. None of this will produce sales until you know ”Who.

”Ken McCarthy, a dear friend of mine and author of the book, System Secrets, says in his book, “….these approaches remind me of the old expression ‘putting the cart before the horse.

‘ The fanciest cart on earth – the best product, the slickest web marketing campaign – won’t get you anywhere without a good market ‘horse to pull it.

In contrast, with the right horse, you don’t have to worry too much about the cart. Nature will take care of itself.

“Richard Sears, founder of the Sears Catalog said, “If it is the right offer to the right person at the right time, I can write it on the back of an old paper bag in crayon and it will sell.

“The most critical thing you can do is pick the right market. Not the paintings, not the website. But to whom would buy your paintings?

The best approach initially is to focus on creating one or a few paintings for your selected ‘who’ market.

• Do several paintings for that market with a specific theme.

• Write articles that go into depth about the reasons why you painted each particular painting.

• Share the story behind each of your paintings.

• Publish these articles online through article directories.

• Put them on your website and send them as press releases to traditional media as well as online media.

• Put voice recordings people can listen to next to each painting you’re selling.

• Talk to the people in your market. Find out what they like, then pull their heartstrings with your paintings.

For example, I had a student artist who wanted to make money selling his paintings. We talked about the type of paintings he created, his hobbies, and his interests. When I asked what prompted him to learn to paint, he talked about painting his favorite golf hole. This was a definite ‘Who’ clue.

Probing further, I asked if other golfers would like to have paintings of their favorite golf holes. He was getting really excited thinking about ‘who’ he knew that would want to have their favorite golf hole on canvas. He went to the golf club, talked to a lot of members, and ended up identifying the 6 favorite holes that excited members.

He then composed paintings of each and offered them for sale. He wrote articles and shared the stories he heard around the watering hole by golfers who’d conquered or been defeated by these golf holes. He then began painting. His paintings covered the gamut of emotions known so well by the lamenting and cheering ‘golfer’. He made more money on his paintings than any student I’m aware of.

You win or lose your battle on the first day.

My advice for you is to go back to the fundamentals and figure out WHO is your market.

Resolve to put at least half or more of your time and energy into studying specific markets and once you’ve addressed ‘Who’ is your market, then the What, How’s and all those other questions become really easy to answer.

Find the easy market …. the groups of people you can easily reach, that have a burning ‘need’ or ‘desire’ for your paintings and who have already demonstrated their willingness and ability to buy paintings. Present your paintings to sell to your ‘Who’.

Back at the golf course, who do you think was the first to line up and buy Sid’s paintings…….the very ones who shared their successes and failures.

Let me know how you do.


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